The Lost Continent (1968)

THE LOST CONTINENT (1968)
Article 2736 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-2-2008
Posting Date: 2-8-2009
Directed by Michael Carreras and Leslie Norman
Featuring Eric Porter, Hildegard Knef, Suzanna Leigh
Country: UK

When a boat carrying a deadly load of explosives is caught in the fury of a hurricane, the crew and passengers must abandon it. Their lifeboat is trapped in the Sargasso Sea, where they have to deal with monsters and Spanish conquistadors who have been trapped there for ages.

This must have been an ambitious undertaking for Hammer studios, what with the challenge of portraying the world of the Sargasso Sea on what must have been a small budget. Certainly, some of the monsters that appear are less than convincing; a battle between a giant crab and a giant scorpion in particular is laughable in this regard. Still, these sequences could have been forgiven had the story been compelling, but, unfortunately, the story is a mess. The movie should have gotten to the Sargasso Sea a lot earlier in the movie than it does, and then focused on the storyline about the Spanish conquistadors; unfortunately, the first half of the movie gets mired in the various problems of the passengers and crew aboard the ship, most of which aren’t particularly interesting in the first place, and we know most of them will be solved by having a character die at a certain part of the story, or be left forgotten at the end of the movie. When it finally does get to the conquistador storyline, it is rushed and poorly developed, and after a while, the whole movie feels like a series of random events than a story. On the plus side, the acting is decent, the women are attractive, and the movie is quite colorful; the score, however (which seems to emphasize cheesy organ music) is just too odd. The most memorable thing about the movie is its sheer strangeness, especially with the visions of men walking on the Sargasso sea with giant inflated shoes and balloons to buoy them up. All it really needed was a strong story told well.

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Lust for a Vampire (1971)

LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (1971)
Article 2687 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-5-2008
Posting Date: 12-21-2008
Directed by Jimmy Sangster
Featuring Ralph Bates, Barbara Jefford, Suzanna Leigh
Country: UK

A girls’ school is terrorized by the reincarnation of Carmilla Karnstein the vampiress.

I’m not a big Hammer fan, and whenever I compare them to the Universal horror canon, I feel quite disappointed with them. However, if I keep in mind that the Hammer horrors had budgets that were more in line with the poverty row studios like Monogram, and if I make myself sympathetic to the modest ambition of recycling classic cliches while taking advantage of the growing permissiveness of cinema (back then, you couldn’t even get away with the title of this one), then I’m quite impressed with how well they’re done. This one has some very good scenes (the resurrection of Carmilla is very effective), some silly scenes (I’ll admit that the theme song “Strange Love” isn’t bad, but I just don’t think this is one of those movies that should have a theme song), and some overly-familiar cliches (hey, let’s have the villagers storm the castle!), but it’s entertaining enough for all that. And let’s face it; classic-style horror was starting to become a rare commodity at this time, so sometimes you just have to appreciate the cliches for what they are.

 

Laboratory (1980)

LABORATORY (1980)
Article 2675 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 8-24-2008
Posting Date: 12-9-2008
Directed by Bob Emenegger and Allan Sandler
Featuring Martin Kove, Ken Washington, Corinne Camacho
Country: USA

Space aliens kidnap humans and isolate them in a remote air force base for experiments.

You know, from a distance I respect this science fiction movie; despite the commonness of the idea of aliens experimenting on humans, I really haven’t seen it handled that much, and, despite the fact that it does show some influence from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (in its use of music as a communication device), it is far from an imitation. Still, when I look up close, it has too many problems I can’t ignore. First of all, the script is rather weak, and the characters are poorly developed and/or stereotypes. Second of all, the score is one of those that largely just drones on and on at the same tone without any regard to the action on the screen; they try to keeep it low and below the surface, but I still noticed. Thirdly, the decision to have the aliens speak in distorted video-game voices backfires because it renders much of their dialogue unintelligible. But worst of all, the movie just utterly fails to build up much in the way of suspense; it takes low-key one step too far into soporific. In short, this could have been a much better movie. Still, I do have to take note of a movie which combines the talents of both Steven Spielberg’s and Cameron Mitchell’s respective sisters.

 

The Last Child (1971)

THE LAST CHILD (1971)
TV-Movie
Article 2626 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-13-2008
Posting Date: 10-21-2008
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Featuring Michael Cole, Van Heflin, Harry Guardino
Country: USA

In the future, it is illegal for women to have more than one baby due to overpopulation. A couple defies the law and tries to have a second baby when their first one dies after only fifteen days.

You know, the very concept of this dystopian science-fiction TV-Movie just seems to scream “message movie”; at least, that’s the obvious way to go with it. As might be expected, that’s the route the movie takes; the first two-thirds of the movie largely consists of the obvious; lots of preaching, characters trying to talk sense to other characters, characters guilt-tripping other characters, and emotional lines of dialogue that you saw coming miles away “I’m having the baby!”, for example. The last third of the movie is mostly car chase. This is one of those movies where most of the characters speak their dialogue quite slowly, and I’ve always suspected that this was because somebody thought if they spoke the dialogue too quickly, viewers might miss the message. Unfortunately, the message is so obvious from square one, that I’d understand them even if they were speaking in some obscure hindi dialect. In this situation, Ed Asner comes off best as the policeman chasing the couple, but this may be primarily because his character doesn’t engage in preaching or guilt-tripping; as a result, he comes across as the most natural. Still, it’s obvious from the 6.9 rating on IMDB that some people quite like this movie; me, I’d trade most of the message for a few surprises along the line.

 

The Love Pill (1971)

THE LOVE PILL (1971)
Article 2625 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-12-2008
Posting Date: 10-20-2008
Directed by Ken Turner
Featuring Henry Woolf, Toni Sinclair, David Pugh
Country: UK

A small town candy store owner is manufacturing sweets that have a secret ingredient that functions as both a contraceptive and an aphrodisiac. When he dies, his son hooks up with a down-and-out businessman to market the product. The only problem is – the son has only a limited amount of the secret ingredient, and no one knows where more can be found.

This racy British comedy stops short of turning into porn, though anyone watching the movie primarily to see naked women will not be too disappointed by the results. The movie occasionally digs up an interesting idea, such as the fact that the pill contributes to a switching of attitudes about sexuality between the genders; in other words, we have women doing the chasing and the men running away. However, the clever ideas remains sporadic, and, as a comedy, it’s singularly short of laughs, and, as satire, it becomes tiresome and obvious. And, when the movie tries to turn romantic in the final reel (what with the movie’s romantic song playing repeatedly while a couple visits an amusement park and encounters all the romantic cliches of the time), it becomes more than a little hypocritical. Director Joe Turner’s credits are mostly for TV, including some work with Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s puppet shows.

 

Lilacs in the Spring (1954)

LILACS IN THE SPRING (1954)
aka Let’s Make Up
Article 2619 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-6-2008
Posting Date: 10-14-2008
Directed by Herbert Wilcox
Featuring Errol Flynn, Anna Neagle, David Farrar
Country: UK

An actress is torn between her love for two men. She dreams she’s various historical characters, and also dreams she’s her own mother.

“The Motion Picture Guide” classifies this one as a fantasy, which just goes to show that the writers of that book have a very different definition of “fantasy” than I do. Nothing really fantastic happens in the dream sequences; in fact, other than the one where she relives her own mother’s life, I’m not sure what point the other dream sequences have (and, for that matter, I’m not sure about the mother sequence either). Actually, I suppose I do; my mistake is that I keep expecting them to have something to do with the plot (which is airy and slight). No, the real reason is to give Anna Neagle as many opportunities to perform dances as possible; despite the fact that Errol Flynn gets top billing, this is first and foremost a star vehicle for Neagle; in the sequence where she’s Queen Victoria, it gives her the opportunity to dance the waltz, and in the sequence as her mother (who was an actress, singer, and dancer), she gets to do a variety of period dances, including a Charleston at one point. You know, I can’t think of many musicals at all that were made in Britain; this one certainly seems to lack the pizzazz of the American musicals. I saw the full British version of the movie; the American version of this movie ran a good 22 minutes shorter, and I’m willing to bet that it emphasized the mother sequence, which is the only part of the movie in which Flynn appears extensively. Incidentally, this is the only Errol Flynn movie I’ve seen for this series; it’s a shame that it is hardly representative of his work. And those of you who look up the movie and see the name of Peter Graves, it’s not James Arness’s brother, but a British actor with the same name. Apparently, Sean Connery has a small role in here somewhere; if you find him, you were luckier than I was.

 

Liquid Dreams (1991)

LIQUID DREAMS (1991)
Article 2600 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-18-2008
Posting Date: 9-25-2998
Directed by Mark S. Manos
Featuring Candice Daly, Richard Steinmetz, Juan Fernandez
Country: USA

In the future, a woman comes from Kansas to the big city to move in with her sister. She finds her sister dead, and learns that she was working for an organization that specializes in erotic dancing and videos. She hooks up with a cop and decides to work undercover, joining the organization as a dancer to get to the truth.

Here we are taking another anomalous leap into the nineties with what the video box describes as a “futuristic erotic thriller”. Well, it seems to be futuristic enough. As for erotic, I’ve always believed that one man’s erotic fantasy is another man’s consummate silliness, and if you find MTV-style editing, garish nightclub milieus, bizarre costumes, throbbing robotic techno beats, and “sex is power” messages to be your cup of tea, this might be the movie for you. As for the thriller part, I can only say that the more things change, the more they remain the same; despite all the modern trappings, what we have here is just an old-fashioned mad scientist story. It holds the interest well enough in some respects what with the curiosity value of finding out what’s going on and the presence of such performers as Paul Bartel (who has a great cameo) and John Waters veteran Mink Stole. But for its premise, I found it pretty tame, it has some singularly bad cussing and questionable performances, and the “let’s kill everyone off because it’s the end of the movie” ending makes it hard to take seriously.